Being Of Sound Health’s wellbeing programme is designed to benefit the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of pupils and staff, and support the school’s Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare strategy. Sessions include the use of therapeutic sound and instruments, dance, breath and body awareness exercises, grounding and mindfulness strategies, within a contained and safe space.
It is delivered in a number of ways, dependent on the needs and targets of the school and pupils, through assessing the overall health and wellbeing needs of pupils and staff with a view of creating a programme of action in response to the findings, and measuring and evaluating the impact of any interventions
Practical tools that are modelled, taught and experienced by pupils and staff and parents, as evidence shows that interventions that take a whole school approach are more likely to have a positive impact in relation to outcomes.
Sound can be used in a number of ways dependent on an individual’s sensitivity to sound and aural stimulation. This is something that can be built upon over time. Each session begins with a breath and physical awareness exercise, followed by dancing, music making and singing. Pupils explore the sensory experience of vibrations in their body from their voice, Himalayan bowls and percussive instruments. This leads into a space of calming breaths and further body awareness using Himalayan bowls, singing and toning, and guided visualisations and meditations. Individuals with more complex needs are ‘met where they are at’, with each session responding to the moment, whilst keeping in mind their overall targets.
Using mindfulness techniques and sound therapeutically is very calming to the automatic nervous system, lowering cortisol levels and slowing the heart rate. The sessions are informed by the Poly Vagel Theory, which looks at how the nervous system affects behavioural responses.
The harmonics of the Himalayan bowls, the steady rhythm of a drum, and singing gentle, repetitive songs, have the ability to lower brain wave activity and synchronise the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Dancing, singing, making music together, raises energy levels, stimulating the nervous system out of inertia. The resulting harmonizing of the body’s energy system allows for increased focus, creativity, emotional connection and regulation, reduced anxiety, and a softening of tension in the body – following the same response meditators experience. Sound Meditation is particularly beneficial for people with SEN as they receive the benefits of meditating without the need for following instructions. In addition, therapeutic sound ‘works’ whether a person is sitting, standing or lying down, with the person benefiting even if they are not actively engaged in the process. Just being in the room and within the vicinity of the sound will produce some effect – and often a person will be drawn in over a number of sessions once the unusualness of the activity fades.
Joanna is a qualified and experienced Sound Practitioner and wellbeing coach of over 10 years’ experience. She has 20 years experience working in the formal and informal education sector, as well as lived experience of SEN and Mental Health and Wellbeing challenges. Places of work include SEN schools and PRUs, KS1-KS4 mainstream, youth and community groups, NHS groups and private clients, for parents and families, as well as children and young people. She has an MA in Applied Anthropology, Youth and Community, where her thesis was on the power of food and ritual in communities; is a qualified Empowered Learning Practitioner, teaching visual methods of learning for those with SEN, and has completed an AFN Certified course in nutrition. She trained with Deb Dana in the Poly Vagel Theory, which focuses on the interplay between trauma and stress within the body with our ease of social engagement.